There is no other gut bomb at 5am than a great sandwich from the side of the road, literally. When you are out on the town, Downtown Miami to be exact, stop in at one of my old holes and experience ultimate early morning fill up. How did I come across this place? Well, if you must know, during my stint of living in South Beach, I ran across this place. The ideal location, last street before you cross the causeway back to South Beach or looking at it the other way first street over the causeway away from the beach, made it a convenient stop. Living and working on South Beach did not necessarily equate to playing on South Beach. Metro Miami, Aventura, Kendall, let’s leave out Hialeah, Calle Ocho, Little Haiti, Culver City, and all the other unsavory locales that if you are not a local don’t venture into. Not all of Miami is a 24 hr. operation, there are few here and there, if you know where to go. After grazing, it is advisable to keep one of these places in your memory bank. Manolo y Rene was my choice. After watching the Heat vs Rockets game last week, I went back to retrieve my car from the valet to go grab a bite on South Beach. Ooops, language barrier or my trusting self, the valet was closed for the night. Luckily, I was staying at the Continental Bayside Hotel right downtown. So I walked around the block to find my old haunt. Places change and memory fade, I did not realize that Manolo y Rene Cafeteria was on the back street of the hotel. Was it memory fade or fogged memory from the time in Miami. Needless to say I was delighted. This place takes up the corner of NE 1st St. and NE 3rd Ave. The windows open towards the street. I don’t even know why they bother to have roll up doors, this place is open 24 hrs. Maybe for rain, oh Hurricanes. The counter is lined with chairs and if there are people sitting on those chairs, which there almost always is, you have to scream your order over their shoulder. The menu is large and hung behind the counter or a specials board is not the side. If in doubt ask. If you can’t speak Spanish, ask a customer to help you. Most of the people behind the counter speak broken English, but they’ll understand. The truth, you can’t go wrong with anything here, so fair none. Palomilla Steak with French Fries and Salad – Thin cut steak pounded even thinner and marinated in Cuban seasonings, grilled on a flat top to tender succulent perfection. You don’t need a fork and knife for this. Grad with one hand and rip into it like a savage. Steak Sandwich – Same palomilla steak with french fries, tomatoes, and lettuce in toasted Cuban bread. This puts any late night cravings to rest. Pasteles – Flaky Cuban pastry filled with Guava and Cheese. Fresh and delicious. The memories of long nights, though I can’t quite disclose for obvious reasons, came rushing back. This is just honest down to earth food in what can sometimes be a very pretentious city. It is sad to see some smaller excellent food “holes” get snuffed out by larger more hip and cool joints on South Beach. Here is hoping that the revitalization of Downtown Miami does not snuff out Manolo y Rene Cafeteria. Great reliable food for real people.
A friend and I were staying in downtown Miami for business/pleasure. While perusing the vast shopping district looking for food, we finally settled on Johnny Rocks. We agreed to split a pie (as opposed to the many other items offered.) The staff was friendly and courteous, and I suspected the owner to be an authentic New Yorker. Based on this observation, I answered "New York" when asked "thin or thick crust." While waiting, we were treated to a generous helping of some unexpected complimentary garlic bread. I'm not sure whether this is the norm or not but it was still a nice gesture, especially since we hadn't actually spoken much with the staff except to order the pie and some drinks. Ten or fifteen minutes later one of the most delicious pizzas I have ever eaten showed up. Just the right balance of crispy and tenderness describes the crust. The sauce and cheese were good as well. Ours was topped with pepperoni and sausage. Anyone who has been to Miami knows the VAST amount of wonderful dining on South Beach. The day after discovering Johnny Rocks we were fulfilling the "pleasure" part of the trip. As we became hungry, we started walking down ocean ave trying to decide who was to get our business. It's kind of a hard decision there because there is one gourmet restaurant after another. We decided that what we REALLY wanted was some more Johnny Rocks. We hailed a cab from Miami Beach to downtown to fulfill this need. When we arrived back, we discovered that the store was closing. Apparently downtown Miami closes early on Saturday and is pretty much shut down on Sunday. We saw the chef (Johnny?) outside socializing as we walked up. We told him how bummed we were about them closing and that we had taken a taxi from South Beach specifically for some of his pizza. He appreciated the compliment and immediately offered us his own dinner slices that he had prepared for himself. They had already swept and had the chairs on the table so he pulled a couple down for us and fed us. My friend and I like to dine well. We know what good food is. Johnny Rocks drew us away from one of the most diverse dining districts I have ever seen. To top it off, Johnny Rock's prices are very reasonable.
I found Mike's recently looking for somewhere different to go. Well, to my surprise, Mike's has been around for almost as long as I've lived in Kendall and I had never gone there all though I'd been over in that strip mall many times. However, after eating there, I was not surprised that they were listed in Zagot's 2008 issue. The decor is so-so and it's small but the staff is fun (we like to joke with the serving staff). andyou forget all about the decor and the size. We usually have pizza and so far, every pizza we've tried has been excellent. They could make the crust a little crispier, like real NY pizza ... where you can pick up one of their huge slices and it doesn't droop at the tip... but it's crispy enough. I don't know if it's accidental or if the greeter is there all the time, but the door has been opened for us and we've been cheerfully invited in every time. If you haven't tried it, give it a try, your taste buds will thank you for it. Yvonne PS: The cheesecake is to die for! I'll have to try the Trimisu next time.